Art therapy: when art can help heal!

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According to a survey conducted by YouGov for the magazine Psychologies, one in three French people has already consulted a psychologist. But how many have had recourse to art therapy sessions? Focus on this little-known therapeutic practice.

Did you say art therapy?

Art therapy is the practice of appealing to the artistic fiber of an individual for psychotherapeutic purposes.

By following the advice of an accredited art therapist, patients can decipher the messages and symbols of their creations. Thus, they will be able to better understand their behavior, better manage their emotions and succeed in solving their psychological problems.

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A little history

Since the dawn of time, we have used art to communicate and express ourselves. Art therapy, as we know it today, did not begin to be considered a form of psychotherapy until the 20th century.

During his convalescence in a sanatorium in 1940, the English painter Adrian Hill made a work on paper which allowed him a faster recovery. The doctors were surprised!

Tempted by this new approach, the British Red Cross adopted it to try it with its patients. In 1950, the first training courses in art therapy began to be given in the United States.

Doctors then noticed that people who suffer from mental disorders often express themselves by drawing or making artistic works.

In France, this concept was recognized by the scientific community during an international congress in 1986.

Nowadays, art has a major importance in the therapeutic field.

The difference between an art therapy session and an art class

An art course focuses on the history of artistic currents or on the teaching of specific techniques, while art therapy encourages patients to create to examine their own perceptions, imagination and feelings.

What does an art therapy session look like?

During a first session, the art therapist speaks with the patient to talk about his suffering, but also about his expectations.
The sessions that follow change according to the artistic activity chosen, but always have the same purpose: to push the patient to make art to access his buried discomforts.

If the patient chooses to draw, the art therapist accompanies him in his productions without lacking discretion and prudence. Over the course of the sessions, the patient’s drawings gain in depth and allow the art therapist to establish more precise assessments.

After each creation, the therapist asks his patient what he thinks of the artistic process, what was easy or difficult to create and if he had any memories during his activity.

Support can be individual (for more confidentiality) or collective.

Who can call on an art therapist?

Empathetic, communicator but above all an artist at heart, the art therapist is a professional trained by clinical psychologists or experienced art therapists. His diploma is recognized by the State (private school or university). The title of this profession is therefore regulated.

The art therapist helps people who have difficulty expressing what they feel through words, but also:

  • Children with learning disabilities
  • young children
  • Children with behavioral or social problems at school or at home
  • People who have suffered brain damage
  • People with mental health issues
  • Children or adults who have experienced a traumatic event

NB : no need to have artistic abilities or a particular talent to do an art therapy session.

Activities carried out in art therapy

The art therapist can invite his patients to do one or more of these activities:

  • To draw : this mediation has been widely used and studied by psychologists and psychologists.
  • To paint : Frequently used in art therapy, the patient’s creations can be free or with constraints.
  • Sculpt : create symbolic objects from raw materials in a workshop
  • Photograph : take photos
  • To write : write to get rid of certain ideas
  • Play with puppets : from a prepared scenario or an improvisation game, the participants play puppets. The staging of these figurines makes it possible to reveal their conscious or unconscious conflicts, to express certain repressed emotions or to formulate some of their needs.
  • Take videos : create a film sequence with the help of the workshop facilitator.
  • make collage : The participants use newspapers and various papers to cut out the elements that appeal to them. Then they stick them on a sheet.
  • Make or listen to music : music therapy is a discipline in its own right where the patient reconnects with his emotions.
  • Etc.

As patients become more invested in their artistic creations, they can analyze their work with the help of the art therapist and understand what may be affecting their thoughts, emotions and behaviors.

How can art therapy help?

Art therapy can help treat:

  • anxiety
  • The Depression
  • Mental health problems due to aging
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Emotional troubles
  • Eating disorders (obesity, for example)
  • Addictions
  • Family or relationship problems
  • The stress
  • Psychological symptoms associated with medical problems

Where can we benefit from art therapy sessions?

Mental health facilities, schools, and community organizations are places where art therapy sessions can be performed, among others. Here are other frameworks conducive to this practice:

  • Private cabinet
  • Hospitals
  • Wellness Center
  • Correctional institutions
  • therapy center
  • Reception centers for seniors
  • art studios
  • Women’s Shelters
  • Shelters for the homeless
  • Residential treatment centers
  • Etc.

How long does an art therapy session last?

Generally, the duration of an art therapy session varies between one and two hours. Some art therapists allow more time, depending on the type of care (individual or collective), the patients and the artistic workshop set up.

How much does an art therapy session cost?

In a workshop or private practice, count between 25 and 70€ per session depending on the duration, the artistic material used and the status of the art therapist (liberal or salaried).

Note that art therapy sessions are not reimbursed by Social Security. In an institutional setting, these sessions can be free.

Resources to discover even more art therapy

Specialized YouTube channel: I love art therapy!

Books :

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